Crossing The India – Bangladesh Border At Petrapole And Benapole | Lost With Purpose
A quick guide on crossing the India – Bangladesh border at Petrapole and Benapole, an overland crossing near Kolkata that offers visas on arrival. Includes information on how to get to the India – Bangladesh border crossing by bus and train, customs procedures, and onward travel.
The India – Bangladesh border crossing at Petrapole and Benapole is the busiest border crossing between the two countries. It is the most convenient for those crossing to Bangladesh from Kolkata, India, or heading from Dhaka to Kolkata.
It is also the only land border crossing (for now) that issues visas on arrival for Bangladesh. Although procedures are relatively straightforward, it does require a healthy dose of patience and some bureaucratic navigation.
How to get to the India – Bangladesh border crossing
Sebastiaan: Going by bus
The Petrapole and Benapole border is about three hours away from Kolkata. Several bus companies operate daily services from Kolkata to Dhaka, and use this crossing. The most reputable ones are Green Line and Shyomli. Both operate several buses a day.
Green Line charges 350 Rs per person, Shyomli charges 300 Rs per person and Desh Travels charges 280 Rs per person for a bus to the border. A ticket to or from Dhaka costs roughly 1,500 Rs per person. You can find the bus companies’ offices on Marqius Street, close to Sudder Street in Kolkata. In Dhaka, there are several offices all around the city. The buses are comfortable, and you get water and cookies along the way.
If you don’t yet have a visa for Bangladesh, I don’t advise you to get a bus all the way to Dhaka. The visa on arrival process can easily take an hour or more, and there’s always a chance the bus will leave without you because you’re taking too long. You can always get a bus from the border to Dhaka. If you’re going to India, make sure you already have a visa, as there is no visa on arrival arrangement on land borders.
Alex: Going by train
Local trains are a cheap and easy way to get to the India – Bangladesh border from Kolkata. The train journey takes about two hours, going through very pretty paddy fields and countryside.
Trains to Bangaon, a town close to the border, depart from Sealdah Station in Kolkata almost hourly, starting at 3:15 and ending at 22:40. You can find the departure times on this very unfortunate website, under the “Dep” column.
The immigration office at the border doesn’t open until 9:00 AM, so if you leave around 6 or 7 in the morning, you might be able to beat the crowds a bit.
Tickets can be purchased at the train station on the day of. A ticket to Bangaon is 20 Rs, which gets you general seating. There are baggage racks on the train, and since the train begins at Sealdah, you should be able to find space for you and your luggage.
Going to Bangladesh? Make sure to check out my massive backpacking in Bangladesh travel guide!
Once you reach Bangaon station, there will be autos waiting outside the station. Tell them you want to go to the border, and they’ll understand where to take you. A shared auto is 30 Rs per person, while hiring the entire auto should be around 150 Rs. The ride to the border takes about 20 minutes.
Once in the border area, ask people to point you towards the immigration office. Don’t worry, you can’t accidentally cross, as officials will catch you and redirect you… I know from experience!
Crossing the India – Bangladesh border at Petrapole and Benapole
From India to Bangladesh
Once you arrive in Petrapole, walk to the Indian immigration office on your right-hand side. You’ll be directed to a square to start queuing.
When I arrived there around 10 in the morning, there was a queue of several hundred people. Surprisingly, the queue was pretty organized, and there wasn’t much shoving nor queue jumping. Because I didn’t want to wait for hours, I jumped the queue as soon as it started moving. If you’re subtle about it, no one will say a thing. Otherwise… prepare for a long wait.
Crossing the Indian side of the border
Once you’re in the immigration building, standard immigration procedures follow.
I was asked several surprising questions. The Indian official wanted to know where I worked, and why I visited only Muslim countries. He also demanded to see an ID card, as, apparently, a passport only proves nationality, not identity.
Luckily I had a Dutch ID card, and he was satisfied with it. I haven’t heard of anything like this happening before—the officer might have been messing with me—but he seemed serious. If you have the same problem, insist a passport proves your identity in your country.
The Indian immigration officers didn’t seem aware of the fact that Bangladesh issues visas on arrival at this border. If they start asking questions, tell them you called the Bangladesh embassy, and that they told you everything was fine. It helps if you have multiple entries on your Indian visa, but if you’re persistent, they should allow you to cross.
The whole process took about an hour, and it would have taken much longer if I hadn’t jumped the queue. Bring your patience. There are no forms to be filled in, and your passport might be checked by several people at multiple points along the way.
Crossing the Bangladesh side of the border
There is a special desk for foreigners, but since there are plenty of Indians crossing this border, there might be a long line. If you already have a visa, the whole process is painless, and takes only a few minutes. If you need a visa on arrival, you’ll have to fill in some forms and have a bit of patience.
The forms have all the standard questions, but the immigration officer is particularly interested in the hotel you’ll be staying on your first night. I wasn’t asked, but some people had to show proof of reservation. If this is the case, and you don’t have a reservation, tell them you reserved by phone. Regardless, make sure you have the address and contact details of a hotel ready, as they want proof on the forms.
After filling out two forms, you’ll have to pay the visa fee, then sit back and wait. The visa fee is $50 for a visa up to 30 days. In some cases an extra 100 Taka (Tk) processing fee might be levied, but in my case, that seemed to be included in the $50. My receipt stated 100 Tk, but no one asked for it. Make sure to be clear on the duration of the visa, as they won’t automatically grant you 30 days.
After you get the visa, you’ll have to put your bags through a scanner, then off you go!
During election time it might be more difficult to obtain a visa. We heard several stories of people being turned away at the border around these times. Elections in Bangladesh are often accompanied by strikes and protest marches, and sometimes turn violent, especially during general elections.
From Bangladesh to India
The immigration terminal is at your right-hand side down the main road. To enter the terminal, you have to pay a 45 Tk fee (this includes a waiting fee, I kid you not). Once you’re in the hall, the queuing begins. Don’t forget that you need to pay a 500 Tk departure tax to leave Bangladesh. There’s a tax booth outside of the terminal, after the baggage scan, towards immigration. It’s also possible to pay your departure tax beforehand at any branch of Sonali Bank.
Once your bags are scanned and you paid the departure tax, you can go on to the immigration hall. There is a special booth for foreigners, and things should go relatively quickly. You’ll be given a departure form to fill in, and the immigration officer will make sure you have an Indian visa.
Note that having an e-visa might lead to some resistance from the immigration officers. Although there are no restrictions on using your e-visa to travel overland once it has been issued, apparently people have been refused by the Indian side in the past. Luckily, the Bangladeshi immigration officer was really friendly, and walked with me to the Indian side to make sure they would allow me to enter before stamping me out of Bangladesh. If the Indian side gives you any trouble, stick to your guns, as there is no restriction on entering overland once the e-visa has been issued.
After you’ve been stamped out of Bangladesh you can walk to Indian immigration and repeat the steps of getting stamped. The whole process took about two hours total.
It’s also possible to travel between Bangladesh and India by train, provided you have a valid visa for both countries. You can find out more about traveling between Dhaka and Kolkata by train here.
Onward travel from the Indian – Bangladesh border at Petrapole and Benapole
You can easily organize onward travel at the border. There are several options, including Dhaka, Jessore and Khulna.
There is a bus station across the immigration office, and there are plenty of helpful people to show you in the right direction. If no buses leave from this station, there will be several travel offices to your left as you exit immigration. A ticket to Jessore (1.5 hours) costs roughly 50 Tk per person, and a ticket to Khulna (3 hours) roughly 200 Tk per person.
If you’re heading to Khulna, a CNG from Zero Point bus stop costs to the city center costs 130 Tk, and 30 Tk from Sonadonga bus station.
Alex: I had to take an e-bike/auto to reach the bus “stand” for buses to Jessore. The ride cost me 20 Tk, and he brought me straight to the spot where all of the buses were parked on the side of the road, about 2 kilometers from the border crossing.
I had the bus drop me off at an intersection where I could catch another shared auto to Banchte Shekha NGO guesthouse. Rooms there range from 600 Tk to 1200 Tk for a single, depending on quality and whether or not you have AC.
Most people will come to the border on a bus that goes directly to Kolkata, and the bus company will take care of everything. If you came independently, there are plenty of bus offices beyond the border where you can get a bus to Kolkata.
There you have it, a quick guide on crossing the India – Bangladesh border at Petrapole and Benapole. If anything has changed since let others know in the comments!